New figures uncovered by Fianna Fáil reveal the extent to which local authorities are sitting on vacant housing units rather than putting them into productive use.
The figures were obtained by Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Environment and Local Government Barry Cowen through a series of Freedom of Information requests to each local authority. The information shows that there are over 2,600 vacant units across the country in council ownership despite the growing housing emergency.
Speaking on the revelation Deputy Cowen commented, “It is sickening to think that there are a massive number of vacant housing units owned by Local Authorities sitting idle. This is at a time when social housing waiting lists are at historic highs and emergency homeless shelters are running out of space to accommodate the escalating crisis.
“Minister Alan Kelly is continually trying to reassure the public that he has a plan for dealing with the housing crisis. However the huge number of vacant housing units across the country shows that no such joint up plan exists. The Minister is out of touch with the public considering his lacklustre response to the housing crisis to date. His lack of action is inexcusable.
“Minister Kelly has told us repeatedly over the last year that his department has been meeting housing needs by providing funding to local authorities for the purposes of refurbishing vacant housing units that they already own, rather than financing new social housing construction. However the figures we have obtained rubbish Minister Kelly’s claim that local authorities are meeting local housing needs.
“The Minister’s bluff has been called following the publication of these figures. His plan for tackling the housing crisis is not working and it is time he admitted this. The figures we obtained show that, as of August, there are 424 vacant housing units in Cork City alone. Other Local Authorities with a large numbers of vacant housing units include Cork County (268), Dublin City (258), Kerry (136), Roscommon (113), Sligo (121) and Wexford (90).
“These figures make it apparent just how completely inadequate the refurbishment funding allocated to local authorities has been. While there are over 2612 housing units lying vacant, the Minister made the disastrous decision to cut refurbishment funding available to local authorities. The cut amounted to a staggering €6.15m this year alone.
“It is utterly senseless to have so many properties lying vacant while spending such enormous funds fire-fighting the crisis through the provision of emergency homeless accommodation. Already this year Dublin City will spend €6 million providing emergency hotel for homeless families. This money could have been much more productively used to provide long term homes for these families by refurbishing the vacant units already in the ownership of local authorities.
“It’s time for Minister Kelly to put these vacant homes to use rather than making policy-on-the-hoof,” said Deputy Cowen.